Msgr. Charles Pope: Epiphany Is More than One Sunday – A quick survey of the Gospels of Epiphanytide

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By Msgr. Charles Pope, Jan. 6, 2022

This week at daily Mass we have been reading various Gospels. To some they may appear as arbitrarily selected. But they are not; they are an extension of the Feast of the Epiphany and this week that we are in is called “Epiphanytide.” Epiphany, as many know, means, “manifestation.” As such, the gospels of this past week bid us to reflect on the way Christ is manifest to us and to the early disciples. There is here, no attempt to provide a full Christology. Rather certain “windows” or images of Christ are given to us that we may more fully recognize who he is. 

In the Breviary, the Antiphon to the Magnificat links three “Epiphanies” of the Lord: 

Three mysteries mark this holy day: “Today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.” 

The Gospels of Epiphanytide include these Gospels and others as well. What follows here is a brief summary of each day of Epiphanytide and its teaching or manifestation of Christ Jesus. I do not provide here a full exegesis of each passage, only how it is, in some way an Epiphany of Christ. 

Monday Mt 4:12-17, 23-25 – Messiah

In Monday of Epiphanytide the Gospel, manifests Jesus as Messiah in the fulfillment of two Messianic promises. In the first place there is his Galilean ministry where Matthew notes that Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This identifies him with the Messiah, for Isaiah the prophet had said, 

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. (Is 9:1-2). 

Later, in the same Chapter of Isaiah, comes the familiar text of Isaiah: 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God. The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Is 9:6) 

In the second place Jesus is manifest as the Messiah through his actions of healing and preaching. Matthew notes, 

He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.  His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics,  and he cured them. 

And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea,  and from beyond the Jordan followed him.

And these actions fulfill numerous prophecies of Isaiah including: Isaiah 29:18Isaiah 35:5; and Isaiah 61:1 Indeed, when the Messiah came the the eyes of the blind would  be opened, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk, lepers be cleansed, and the poor would have the good news preached to them. 

Tuesday Mk 6:34-44 – New Moses 

Jesus, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is presented as the new and greater Moses. As God gave the Law through Moses and fed the people in the wilderness with Manna, so Jesus gives the Law and feeds the multitudes in the wilderness. Moses himself pointed to Christ when he told the Jewish people, A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen. (Dt 18:15). And in today’s Gospel we see Jesus teaching, giving and interpreting the Law and feeding the multitude. 

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things….  Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven,  he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied.

Wednesday Mk 6:45-52 – Jesus is Lord 

The Gospel for Wednesday of Epiphanytide is the familiar Gospel of Jesus walking on the water. Two things in this gospel point to Jesus divinity and title as Lord. Here is an excerpt: 

[Jesus] came toward them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.   But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.  They had all seen him and were terrified.  But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”  He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.  They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves.  On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

Note first that the expression, “He meant to pass by them.” This is phrase in the Scriptures is a common one in the theophanies of the Old Testament. I develop this matter more fully  here:  What does it mean that Jesus meant to pass by his disciples? In that article I present numerous examples of the use of this when God appears. Here, for our purposes it underscores Jesus identity as Lord and God. 

Note secondly the observation that they are completely astounded. They were surely astounded that he could walk on the water. Earlier in Mark, the Apostles spoke more fully of their astonishment: Overwhelmed with fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). Their question is rhetorical since every Jew would agree, the wind and sea only obey God. 

Thursday Lk 4:14-22 He is the Messiah whom they have awaited. 

Today’s Gospel of Epiphanytide is: 

[Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives  and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.  He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Here, reiterated, is the manifestation, by his own testimony, that he is the long awaited Messiah as Isaiah had prophesied. This manifestation is straight-forward, admits of no ambiguity and is solemn: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and Lord. 

 Friday – Lk 5:12-16 He is the healing of God. 

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”  Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.”  And the leprosy left him immediately.  Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”  The report about him spread all the more, and great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.

Here too as in yesterday’s manifestation is the fulfillment of Messianic prophesies. In Isaiah 35:5-6, the prophet speaks of the day of salvation this way: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; and  speaks also of the lame, and the mute. Isaiah 26:19 says, “Your dead shall live”; Isaiah 29:18 also refers to the healing of the deaf and the blind; while Isaiah 61:1 speaks of bringing good news to the poor (quoted by Jesus in yesterday’s Gospel in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:18-19).

Saturday – Jn 3:22-30 – John the Baptist Confessed him to be Messiah and Lord. 

In today’s Manifestation, John makes it clear to his jealous disciples that Jesus is Messiah (Christ). 

John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him.  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.  So this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease.

So revered was John the Baptist among First Century Christians, that many wondered if he were not, in fact, the Messiah. But the Scriptures attest he strongly denied this and pointed to Jesus, not himself. In John 1:20, there is an emphatic testimony attributed to John: “And he said and did not deny, but said, “I am not the Christ.””

Sunday Lk 3:15-16, 21-22 – Jesus is God’s Son 

In today’s Manifestation we read: 

And the Holy Spirit descended upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven,  “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

Thus, in fulfillment of Psalm 2:7 “You are my Son, this Day I have begotten you,” Jesus shares the Father’s nature since he is eternally begotten not made. He is not a creature distinct from God the Father. Since Jesus is begotten he shares his Father’s nature. 

2nd Sunday Jn 2:1-11

And, though not strictly in Epiphanytide, Cycle A adds the Gospel of the water changed to wine in recognition of the ancient linking of this miracle to Epiphany. This miracle manifests his glory: 

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. 

And thus we see the extension of the Feast of Epiphany into the weeks following Epiphany in something of an intensive way. Some will note that the old Missal extended Epiphany unto Septuagesima Sunday as we shifted gears into Lent. And this is true enough. In the new Missal, epiphanytide is not as long, but it should not be missed.  

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